To call these last weeks in American politics a whirlwind would be an understatement.
Mere days ago, before the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the age of 87 on Sept. 18, online conspiracy theories shared on social media abounded, blaming political organizations for deliberately spreading the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.
It’s worth noting that some of these conspiracy theories were also posted by islanders, on local social media pages.
Law enforcement officials including the police department of Medford, Oregon, were forced to respond, posting a statement saying neither left-wing anti-fascist activists better known as Antifa nor the far-right organization known as the Proud Boys, were responsible for the devastating blazes. The Portland FBI branch also issued a similar statement about the fires in Oregon.
As the smoke enveloped the region, including Vashon, harrowing reports from The New York Times about families electing not to evacuate from the path of danger — but instead, choosing to stay behind and defend their homes against supposed adversaries sewing all the chaos in the midst — was a stark and grim reminder of the seeming unreality we share.
The smoke has gone, for now, but for a country still in different stages of pandemic lockdown, Justice Ginsberg’s death has plunged the months ahead into a haze of new uncertainty.
Many have again taken to social media to speculate what is ahead. Some have expressed feeling consumed by anxiety, facing the prospect of a new political future with an increasingly likely conservative majority on the Supreme Court that could overturn decisions such as Roe v. Wade or pick away at other facets of the culture wars and touch the lives of millions.
For those who feel as though they are standing directly in the path of whatever political consequences may lie ahead, living through this time might not feel very great, or least of all empowering.
Let’s stop here and take a look at the bigger picture. Turn some music on. Open the windows (finally). All of us who live in this country have a great deal to be grateful for, and here’s one reason why: We have a government that represents its people (or at least is supposed to). And one of the best ways to participate in our democracy, no matter who you are or what you care about, is to vote.
Want to get started? Check if you are registered to vote in the state of Washington online — or, importantly, update your information if it has changed — at voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx. King County Elections, the largest jurisdiction in the United States that conducts all elections by mail, is planning for high voter turnout in the November General Election, so don’t wait to turn in your ballot.
Before you do, look it over: research on how elections are coordinated nationwide, according to Stanford University and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has found that a significant number of ballots often go uncounted because of voter errors — namely incorrect or misplaced signatures — and, for states new to mail-in voting, late delivery of ballots. So fill in those boxes carefully and don’t hang onto your ballot.
But if you’re worried the United States Post Office might not be up to the task, as it has been in previous years, to make sure your vote is counted, know that last week, Judge Stanley Bastian of the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington temporarily halted changes made by the postal service that has slowed mail delivery in recent weeks amid fears that ballots could be delayed, according to The Seattle Times.
There’s something else to keep in mind at this time. This wisdom is worth repeating again and again: we have to believe in the best of us.
There are so many good, righteous and kind people in this country. And surely enough of them value integrity, compassion, cooperation and justice. They don’t stand for prejudice or greed. They want everyone to have a say and live truthfully. They don’t want harm to come to others. They want everyone to survive and succeed. They have courage, not fear or hate. And they live in this community and many more. They are your family and friends and people you don’t know. They have been here all along and so have you. Everyone belongs here and together we will be alright.
Do what you need to. Don’t give up, and please remember to vote.